"South America on $320" story # 6

Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago           May 13, 2002

The great thing about earning US$2/hour is that you really get to party hard on the weekend. Provided you don't want anything crazy like a burger and juice in a restaurant, because that's nearly a day's wages.
     So, I don't have much money. Nor do I have many friends.
     The three waitresses whom I work closest to would make Oscar the Grouch seem like a friendly, fun guy to be around. The only recent compassion they've directed at me was when one exclaimed, "You pay $800 a month ($850 actually; 40% of my salary) for THAT?" when she was dropping me home.
     She said this because the house I stay in is about a bazillion years old. The house, itself, looks like a witch. It had one day been painted white - probably by one of the apostles - but the dark wood beneath creeps through in plentiful cracks. The corners of the roof are pointed, cony witch caps. Two witches' veils conceal the front entrance, and the veranda would be perfect for a broom landing.
     The lady I stay with is like a Roald Dahl character. Roald probably would've called her: Old Miss Abominable, a.k.a. "The Tenant-Muncher." She's lonely, so that whenever she speaks to anyone she deems a good person (any person who is not me) she's so excited that she laughs like a screaming witch being pumped full with helium. In contrast, in my presence - say, in the kitchen, stirring her brew in her favorite mumu as I fix myself a peanut butter-and-bananas on white - her lower lip limps as steadfastly as a building ledge supporting a gargoyle.
     Of course, it's unfair of me to speak this way without allowing her to defend what she has against me. I figure she'd probably provide for evidence the events that led her to make the following remarks:
     (Imagine the screeching voice of a lady so shocked you forgot to replace a chair you moved that she's become violently sick to her stomach)
     "Justin. Good morning-last night you drank a plastic cup on the veranda. It's still there. Will you pick it up now, please?"
     "Justin, I said pass me the EYE of the salamander and the gizzard of the LIZARD! I have to make this just right. And whaddaya DOIN' handing it to me tail-first? You incomprehensibly witless lunk-head!"
     "Justin, would you put your foot up on the chair in your mother's house?"
     "Justin, did you just wake up this morning and not wash your hands? Well, aren't you going to wash them!?"
     "I'll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!"
     And on top of all that, if you can believe it, she insulted my clothes. My clothes!!! She said I should buy new clothes. These are the same clothes I've had five or six or seven years! The absurdity of her tort was unfathomable!
     For example, I have a Fijian shirt. Fee-jiiian (emphasis). And a pair of tattered, baggy jeans that've been worn so many times the denim feels like bed-sheets. And a crocodile battle-beast necklace, for pete's sake! And - oh, no, it's too late now, you've got me thinking about them; I'm gonna have to go off on the shoes ...
     It's interesting to think what people would pick if forced to name their most-prized possessions. For most, it would be their house. For many, it would be a car. For others, it would be a nice article of clothing. I'm no different from those people. Because, for me, my most-prized possession is my seven-year old pair of brown loafers. My rotting, crooked, uneven, warped pair of brown loafers. Here's happily why:
     A. In July 1995, I purchased a pair of Prospector brown loafers for $20 in Tennessee. I originally bought them to wear and waste while tarring a house, but at my friend "Tonto's" urging I decided to save them for everyday shoes. My friend, "Tonto," may some day be a rock star, but he'll never make as great a contribution to humanity as he did on that day.
     B. They were the finest shoes around. The toe section was flat on top, short on height, and round on the end, like a stack of pancakes. The soft leather was moccasin-comfortable, and I walked with lazy laces open. After a year, fickle naysayers began saying I needed new shoes, though. Their brown radiance was dirtying and their posture collapsing. After two years, even "Tonto" hated them.
     C. By 1999, I'd worn holes completely through the bottoms. But, those gritty shoes, in an act of true inspiration for us all, fought for their young lives that had only just begun. New soles, cut from similar-looking sacrifices, were super-glued under them. And my loafers "pressed on" with dignity, even though they were now sharply lop-sided.
     D. There are no better jeans-shoes. If you were able to conceptualize the magnitude of beauty achieved when one wears my favorite shoes with my favorite jeans (previously mentioned), you might never use the word "pretty" in reference to another earthly thing again. If you want, drape some navy bed-sheets around your legs and then wear a stack of pancakes on your feet. That's how great these shoes look!
     E. One day, I gave the shoes to my nemesis, Pansyckas (rrrgh!), as a peace offering. He opened my present and was delighted by its contents. However, when he tried to put the shoes on, there I was, hiding inside them. I jumped out, slew him mightily, and clinched victory in the Trojan War.
     F. This one actually happened. While I rode a bus in Brazil during 2001, a miserable thief decided he wanted the shoes of an American. However, when he tried to take my brown loafers, my detachable transplanted sole device worked like a charm, and he managed to take only the sole of one loafer. I still had my shoes, but they were now impaired.
     G. For a second time, the shoes "pressed on." See why I love them? I super-glued the non-matching black sole of a rubber sandal to the one shoe, but the rubber sole was too rigid to remain attached. So, my next brilliant plan was to hammer the sole on using nails. My shoes quickly became the toughest shoes around. The shoes and I celebrated with our favorite activity: going dancing. It began for us as a good time as always, but by late night the sharp end of the nails pierced my foot with each step I took. Nails were not the way to go.
     H. Just before coming to Trinidad, I cut off the sole of a white sneaker, spray-painted it brown, and crazy-glued it in place. With a little ingenuity, the shoes were back! The leather was warped to a dark mud color and the perimeter stitching has torn a hole, but they can still slump around my feet!
     Now, do you see how ridiculous my land-lady is? I should buy new clothes? She should buy a new house!
     In her defense, she hasn't seen me wearing my most-prized possession. That's because one of the shoes went missing and didn't make it on the plane to Trinidad with me. We can all only hope my friend, "Johnny" Anderson, has since found the lost shoe in a car or dorm room. And if you have, "Johnny," spare no expense (of yours) in getting it to me. Send it to me, "Johnny!" Send it like the wind!
     "You can insult a man, but you can't insult his sam'wich!" That's how I feel, except about my clothes.
     Yeah. So, the weekend had come. And I was beginning to consider using my land-lady's sharp knives for something other than making peanut butter sandwiches. I had to get out of the house.

To be continued. Modern Oddyseus.

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